The life of a church planter is extremely unpredictable. You start deputation with eagerness because all you want to do is get to your city and reach people with the Gospel. No matter how much you travel, and how good the meetings are, your heart is constantly longing to be in the place you’ve been called to be.
You finally get to your city, support promised, with fresh vision and a fire in your soul. Everybody is different in how they plant churches, but they all have one thing in common—they just want people to meet Jesus. They want the Gospel to change lives.
That’s what I want.
We launched our church in late October of 2019. We have about 20 people, and God is at work. We’re not in a building yet, so we’re meeting at our home—it’s a great setup. We were building momentum, and looking at meeting-places, when suddenly it all came screeching to a halt. No more services. No more hanging out after church. No more worshipping together, hands lifted to heaven. All gone.
We’re going on our 7th week of online services only. The first few weeks were honestly fun. It was fresh, exciting, and unique. We bought a capable camera, some other equipment, and started to pre-record everything, which made Sundays less stressful. I actually got to sit with my wife for church, and enjoyed breakfast at the same time. The services started to looked half-way decent, and we got great response from our people!
However, our local authorities just added another two weeks to our social distancing guidelines here in MA. I’m sick and tired of it all. Talk about unpredictability.
Can I be real with you?
- This is annoying.
- This doesn’t feel right.
- I’m more easily stressed.
- I feel pulled in more directions.
- I feel disconnected from the few people that we have.
- I barely know how to pastor, let alone pastor during a pandemic.
- I’m often critical of myself as I watch our service on Sunday mornings.
- I tend to watch the viewer count on the live feed instead of worshipping like I should.
Last Sunday, the service finished, and I felt defeated. It didn’t feel like church. I tried to create this worship experience for my family, and I felt like I failed.
I have 4 young boys, one with severe autism, and they seemed a bit disconnected. My wife had to chase them around and reel them back in while I interacted with the viewers. I sat there when it was over, completely discouraged. My wife asked what was wrong, and I started to selfishly complain about everything. As we talked, I was reminded that no matter how hard I tried to make it FEEL like church, it wasn’t going to be the same. However, I started to realize that was ok.
You know what my problem was? Me.
- Instead of embracing the challenge, I resented it.
- Instead of facing the unknown, I feared it.
- Instead of letting Christ rule in me, I let my pride and insecurity flare up.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who has had a hard time with this. I see a lot of positivity on social media from my pastor friends—and I’m glad for it! I’d put it out there too. But truthfully, I struggle.
Sometimes, I am patient, humble, and optimistic; but often I’m frustrated, insecure, and negative.
- For me, it’s time to cast off the insecurity, and remember God is sovereign.
- It’s time to stop watching the view count, and truly worship Him from the couch.
- It’s time to stop being a perfectionist, and walk in humility even when the livestream glitches.
- It’s time to stop looking for all the reasons this situation is annoying, and start looking for opportunities to bless others.
This pandemic has taught me a lot, and I know class isn’t over yet. Here’s Coronavirus 101:
• The grace of God is sometimes painful. What feels to me like annoying, frustrating, and defeating is actually the grace of God trying to make me more like Jesus. I have fought against that grace so often. No more! (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
• Peace is not found in a group of people gathered in a room. Peace is found in Jesus Christ – and it usually doesn’t make sense. (Philippians 4:7)
• The Gospel cannot be stopped. The enemy still whispers lies to my heart, but the truth of the Gospel speaks louder. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
• Unpredictability is when the dependability of God’s promises shine. (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)
• There is grace from Jesus for every circumstance. Here’s the painful truth—there is never a good reason or justification to get annoyed, impatient, insecure, or discouraged. If Christ is truly enough, I will be content. Period. (Philippians 4:11).
It has also taught me that there is more than one way to minister. We have started a weekly Bible program for kids that has helped a lot of people. I do a tri-weekly devotional on Facebook that is generating interest. We even started a video series on helping special-needs families.
This will pass. When I look back on it years from now, I want to know that I rested in Jesus during this unique time. I don’t want my boys to look back and remember dad being a jerk during quarantine church.
We are going to keep moving forward through all this. I can’t let pride and insecurity hold me back from moving forward. I can’t let fear and doubt cripple me into not taking risks. I can’t let impatience and frustration rob me of joy on the journey.
If the Gospel is enough to give me eternal life, it’s more than enough to get me through life in this fallen, unpredictable world!